I’ve had a couple of people comment about the post I wrote yesterday about how the church needs to be Bible based.    Their comments provided me with the topic for this morning’s post.

So what did they say?    Well, let me sum it up in one sentence (and I know generalities are dangerous……)

“There are so many things in the Bible that are open to interpretation that it’s easy to pick and choose what you want to believe and make the Bible say what you want it to. “

Unfortunately it is true that many times, preachers and churches do exactly that.    They use  the Bible to justify their beliefs instead of matching their beliefs up to the Bible.Courtesy of Todd Waller - www.toddwaller.com

Let me say it straight out – not everything in the Bible needs to be followed absolutely literally in today’s time.    We don’t need to do animal sacrifices any more,  for instance.

We don’t need to adhere to some of the laws of ancient Israel that dealt with how to live a life of love and respect for God, who He is and what He means.   

Do we still need to live a life of love and respect?    Absolutely.    We need to follow the principles of what the Bible teaches, even if we don’t have to sacrifice an unblemished goat.  

What happens if your church believes that living the life that God commands means something different than what my church does?

What happens if your church believes that “Keep the Sabbath Day holy” means that you don’t watch TV, you don’t play with the neighbors and you certainly don’t mow the lawn and my church believes that:

  • It’s okay to go out to a restaurant on Sunday.
  • It’s okay to go to the beach on Sunday.
  • It’s okay to go golfing on Sunday.

What do you do then?

Let me tell you a story from back in the early 1980s.    I had the privilege of working for four weeks with a church just outside of Washington DC.   There were four of us who went there to help for four weeks.

The first Sunday we were there, everyone went to church, went home, changed clothes, went out to eat and then went to the beach!

We were appalled.    In West Michigan in the early 1980s, no one who was Christian went to the beach on Sunday.   I mean, seriously, we believed that it was wrong to do that.

So how did we balance what we were taught with what they did?

Were they all a bunch of heathens in Washington DC?  

Until the family that we were staying with explained it to us.    The majority (upwards of 80%) of the families in their church were military or government families.     They all had  at least one parent who worked 12 + hours every day of every week – including Saturdays.    For them, Sunday was a day that was set apart from the rest of the week and part of how they made Sunday holy was by doing things as a family – things they wouldn’t get the chance to do otherwise.

Did we both observe the “Keep the Sabbath day holy” requirement?   I believe we did.     I believe that for them, compared to our middle class area in Michigan, keeping the Sabbath day holy” is different because of the different dynamics of their world.

So, back to the church and being Bible based.    A couple of principles that I believe every church should have and keep in mind:

  • There are certain truths that are truly non-negotiable.    If you claim that Jesus is just a “good man” and not the Saviour of this world, you are not believing something that is Bible based.    The Bible clearly says different.
  • There are certain truths in the Bible that are open to interpretation:  “Christian schools vs. public schools”   “Sunday observance”  “Child baptism vs. adult baptism” and many more.    Those are the interpretations that make for the differences between the Methodist and the Baptist and the Christian Reformed denominations.
  • A church needs to have a governing body (Elders) who are willing and actively holding their pastor accountable to make sure that he is not violating the non-negotiable ones and that the ideas and thoughts that he expresses from the pulpit and elsewhere fall in line with what their denomination says are the “open to interpretation” ones.    They need to have the guts to stand up and say,   “Dear ________, on Sunday, I heard you say, ____________________, and I don’t believe that is in line with what we believe.    Please explain how you think it is.”
  • Ordination of pastors – I know that this is by no means a guarantee that a pastor will be a good preacher.  However, I do believe that there are many situations where people are “preaching” and haven’t had the education that they should to make sure they are explaining and preaching God’s Word in a way that aligns with what God intends.   

Being a Bible based church is a lot more difficult and confusing than it sounds.    There are a lot of gray areas.   It requires a lot of thought, a lot of prayer and a lot of communication.

But it can be done.    And The Church needs to do more of it.

Tom